Category Archives: AV Electoral Reform

Doublethink 2020

George Orwell wrote some good stuff in his time. Two of his best known works are Animal Farm and 1984. Both books dealt with the human condition and political ideologies that humans follow and in the case of Animal Farm, both were seized on by proponents of both the Left and Right wing totalitarian thinking as complete vindication of their own systems of control. Which is weird when you think about it, unless of course you believe that Communism and Fascism are exactly the same thing, which is kind of what Orwell was arguing.  Furthermore, in 1984  Orwell examined the concept of doublethink. Doublethink is basically where someone holds completely contradictory ideas and values and believes them to be true, a bit like those from the Left and Right who believe in the messages they think Animal Farm is purporting. In 1984, the ‘Party’ uses doublethink as an essential component of their success, supporting the state’s imposed practice of language control, which Orwell calls newspeak. Confused yet? That’s the idea.

Well it looks like we, in the UK,  are now in full doublethink mode given the actions and words being used by our politicians, most notably our prime minister, Mr Johnson. On Thursday the 12th of December, the UK will go to the polls again, to vote in a general election. This is an election only two and a half years since the last general election, which was supposed to settle the thorny old question of how the UK leaves the EU, or in other words, how to ‘get Brexit done‘. This was an election that the prime minister, Mr Johnson, always said categorically that he did not want, but because ‘Parliament blocked Brexit‘, he had no choice but to call it. Mr Johnson conveniently forgets that he and most of his cabinet actually voted against the previous prime minister, Mrs May’s Brexit deal, effectively blocking Brexit. The same Mrs May who called an election she said did not want, but was forced to in order to ‘strengthen her hand’ in the negotiations with the EU and deliver a ‘strong and stable government’. That strong and stable approach delivered the Parliament that ‘blocked Brexit‘. Have you ever thought, ‘wow, this really is complicated’ or maybe ‘why can’t these people get what we want done’? Do you ever get frustrated, angry even?

So consider now the current prime minister, Mr Johnson, telling anyone who will listen, that his ‘new Conservative government‘ will reverse the negative effects of the policies of austerity, by investing massive amounts of money into the NHS, police, prisons, infrastructure, schools and all the other public services. The same public services that have had massive funding cuts of 40% since 2010. 2010 being the year that the Conservatives led a coalition government and implemented these spending cuts. Mr Johnson says because his party has got the national debt ‘under control’, he can now spend again, and spend big. Given that the national debt has risen by approximately 75% since 2010, this again feels a bit doublethink, but maybe that’s just me being logical again, I really don’t know.

Remember, the people of the UK were asked a very simple question by referendum back in 2016, by this same Conservative party in government, namely ‘do you want to remain or leave the EU’? A simple question which has not been that simple to deliver, as it turns out. That Conservative government made no plans whatsoever for the answer to the question given being ‘leave’. The prime minister at the time, Mr Cameron resigned shortly after the result and Mrs May took back control and we know what happened next. Many, many people are confused, angry and generally disillusioned at the politicians’ inability to deliver the result of that referendum.

So now we are here. We have a Conservative government who have inflicted unprecedented cuts to public services since 2010. Those cuts have effected everyone and made people’s lives harder and more miserable. The Conservatives then offered us a referendum and made no plans to deal with one of the outcomes, i.e. leaving the EU. The Conservatives then called another election in 2017. The Conservatives squandered the last three and a half years arguing with themselves about how the UK will leave the EU. The Conservative government’s own analysis of the economic and security outcomes said there were problems with leaving and the country was going to be worse off but they ignored their own advice and pressed on. All the while, the Conservatives carried on with their austerity and cuts, making people’s lives harder and more miserable. And now the same Conservatives are asking us to vote them back into power on the back of promises to end austerity and ‘get Brexit done‘, promises to fix the NHS by hiring the nurses they already have, but want to stop leaving, invest in schools and teachers who are leaving the profession in droves, to put back the police officers and prison officers they sacked to tackle knife crime, and to stop us being ‘held back as a nation’. Its as if we, the people, are being treated by the Conservatives like a beaten partner, someone who will return to misery because they are all too frightened to seek an alternative for a better life. If you really want to leave this toxic relationship and take back control of your own lives, do you really think the Conservatives with their rancid record of government and constant doublethink policies deserve your vote?

Voting is a democratic choice, one that has had to be fought for down the years. Voting was a right that wasn’t given to everyone over 18 automatically. Long live voting. Long live democracy. Long live the truth.

 

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Dear Prime Minister…..

I sent this letter to the Prime Minister on the 6th of December. Thus far I have had no reply, so I posted another copy today, the day of the ‘meaningful vote’…..

Dear Prime Minister,

I write this open letter to you with the heaviest of hearts. I am a proud citizen of the United Kingdom with an England tattoo on my arm and an OBE on my chest. The truth is one of my ways of life.

Like you Prime Minister, I consider myself patriotic, principled and I take my duty as a citizen very seriously. But our beloved country has allowed itself to descend into an ungracious and dis-unified state the likes of which we have never known.

As an entrepreneur I build businesses. Most of mine have been successful, but not all. It’s my job to be laser focused on what my companies offer both employee and customer. I build, listen and motivate incredible teams. I know to pivot when ‘staying the course’ would lead to disaster. All successful leaders learn through failure. As Madiba said “Quitting Is Leading”.

My octogenarian Mum (the most patriotic person I know) will never suffer a bad word said of our Great Britain. Mum’s family fled Fascists and Nazis to make a home in East London. Our country used to have the highest reputation for providing safe haven to those fleeing terror. That reputation is presently in danger of being lost.

My father worked with Jewish people all his life and they were all proud to be East Enders and equally proud of being British. Yet they never lost sight of their Jewish heritage and responsibilities before God. Every good British soul at that time was wearied by hate and war. We wanted it utterly done with. Our progress and peace in Europe since then has no historical precedent. Our freedom to live, work and love in the EU has accelerated world peace and collective understanding for our fellow mankind.

We have all been on a strange journey since June 23rd 2016. Every voter appears to have been sold a ‘victory’ based on lies, deception and outrageous interference. The legal and moral shadows cast by that interference still loom large today.

Political pundits and supposedly ‘bright headed journalists’ have spent years pointing the finger at the EU, blaming them for our immigration problems. Successive UK governments have failed to exercise our right in EU law to control our own numbers.

Is it because we desperately need more skilled people? I think so.

I don’t need to tell you where the majority of our net migration comes from. You know that the top three nations are either in the Commonwealth or our closest neighbours. If you, like me, recently watched the Darkest Hour film on Churchill’s ascent to your present office, then you would know that King George VI told Churchill:

“The public needs to be led, not misled”. The rest is history and our Darkest Hour led to our Finest Hour.

What the world needs now is the truth. Pure and simple truth. You have put a good amount of toil into your government’s Withdrawal Agreement. The 585 page document represents a huge amount of legally binding words. The Political Declaration alongside it is a 27 page promise of our intended future relationship and nothing more. But it delivers us nothing but warm words. None of the hollow promises made to us all by the Leave camp seem achievable in reality. There is no actual future deal yet on the table. Will this Withdrawal Agreement not leave us poorer than we are under our current membership of the EU?

You stood on the steps of Number 10 Downing St when you became Prime Minister and talked about fighting the burning injustices of this country. If we are poorer, how can we rectify these injustices? You still have the chance to tell us the truth and lead us into a better place. Ask our Parliament to help you, ask us, the people to help you too. But tell us the truth, please. As Lincoln said, “you can’t lie to people and expect them to continue to follow you”.

Prime Minister, your job is to inspire we the people but you must also speak truth to us. All the advice you have been given and all the data at your disposal points to our country being worse off if we leave the EU. Please admit this to us and tell us that you need to change direction, it is your job to make this country safe, and that cannot happen if we are poorer and our influence is diminished. We would all respect you for that.

We need the truth now more than ever in our history. Tell us the truth Prime Minister. Yours sincerely,

AG Payne OBE

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So what did we learn from the General Election 2015?

Have any of us actually learned anything from the results of the General Election? There is much talk of who has won, and who has lost. It does seems like there will be a load of introspection and reflection amongst Labour and the LibDems who in their own ways suffered devastating defeats in the early hours of Friday morning.   For those voters who voted for UKIP and the Greens, however, there is probably a fair amount of confusion, if not utter dis. And for those who voted Conservative, Green, UKIP  and LibDem in Scotland & Wales, you too probably feel pretty confused also. Put simply, votes don’t match seats, they never have and never will, unless of course there is reform to the system.

The raw data is fascinating.  And data never lies.

In the UK as a whole the Conservatives  had 11,334,920 votes for them, namely 36.9% of the total votes cast. Labour were almost 2 million votes behind, which is a huge margin, with 9,347,326, representing 30.4% of the total votes cast. The 3rd biggest party was UKIP who recorded 3,881, 129 votes, i.e 12.6% of the votes cast. UKIP also got more votes in Scotland than the Greens – 47,078 vs 39,205, and in Northern Ireland 18.324 vs 6,822. In Wales 204,360 voted UKIP  more than Plaid Cymru who got 181.694, the LibDems 97,383 and the Greens with 38,344. For all the date see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election/2015/results

All of these voters voting for UKIP and yet they only got 1 seat in the House of Commons? How can this be right in a modern democracy?  Maybe the word ‘modern’ is a little misplaced?

Well we are told that the electoral system we have, called First Past The Post (FPTP), delivers strong government and therefore it is the right system for the United Kingdom. That is certainly debateable, but if we want a democracy to represent and importantly include the people, we need a system that actually represents those who cast their vote.  In so many constituencies, unless you vote for the incumbent MP, your vote will be wasted.

If you live in an inner city in England, good luck voting Conservative, Labour always get in. Similarly, if you live in the suburban and rural South or South West, if you vote Labour it will make no difference.   Millions of votes are in effect wasted. That is why the 2 big parties focus on these so called ‘marginals’. Those ‘marginals’ decide which colour of Government sitting in Parliament we actually get.  So the system gets even more undemocratic and unrepresentative.  Indeed, many MPs can be elected without being the majority candidate in their seat!

One of the key reasons why so many people voted in the Scottish Referendum, 84.5% of voters turned out to vote, versus 66.1% in this General Election, was because their vote actually counted.

Right now, I believe we have a divided Britain, where whole parts of the country feel totally unrepresented despite having real support. The General Election result has actually made things worse.

Put simply, based on the proportions of votes cast, we would be looking at a Parliament made up of the following.

Conservatives = 240 seats (versus 331 seats now)

Labour = 198 seats (versus 232 seats now)

UKIP = 82 seats (versus 1 seat now)

LibDems –  51 seats (versus 8 seats now)

SNP = 30 seats (versus 56 seats now)

Greens – 24 seats (versus 1 seat now)

And then to each of Plaid Cymru in Wales, Sinn Fein and Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland would get 4 seats.  The rest would be made up of all the really small parties.

From that Parliamentary make up, it would be up to the parties to try and form a Government. This is the tricky bit and it would have to be a coalition of parties of course, as no one party would command over half (i.e 326) seats to make absolutely certain that they could form a Government of one colour.

But fear not, there will be reform to the system and it is coming in 2018. It is called boundary changes, something that is called for variously by Labour or the latterly the Conservatives, in order to retain the status quo. They both know the current system is unfair, undemocratic and unrepresentative of the votes cast. But they just don’t care enough to call for review and reform. Have a look at Owen Patterson who was interview today, around 5 mins 20 secs in. He believes passionately in electoral reform, just not really the reform many voters actually need.

So what is the real lesson learnt from this election? Same as it ever was, voting for so many people has proven to be fruitless and a waste of time. Unless you vote Conservative or Labour, you won’t get heard. Unless of course if you live in Scotland, where the SNP have ‘won’ this election.

So there you have it. Don’t bother voting Green, unless you live in Brighton, or UKIP, the system laughs in your face.  Be a good citizen and decide if you want to go red or blue, Labour or Conservative, because they really are the only choices. As both leaders told us so many times, you only have 2 choices of who will be Prime Minister.  At least we got David Cameron, I suppose.

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#oneaday 45: AV:I will shut up and let the Baroness explain

Boy oh boy, Baroness Warsi has made some right old ricketts in her day, but if you are at all confused about the whole Alternative Vote (AV) Referendum this week, invest afew  minutes of your time and watch this video. This is absolutley brilliant, and lurches between comedy, pathos and bathos. If we were voting for speaking loudly, trying to make pre-briefed points no matter what the question and not simply not listening, this lady who serves in the Cabinet would get my vote anyday. Except of course, she is a non voted for member of the Cabinet ‘passionately supporting our current voting system. The First Past the Post (FPTP) system has not put her in government, but I am sure if she was in charge of the #N2AV campaign, she would allege AV would give us ‘losers’  in positions of power. You have to laugh.

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#oneaday 44: AV – more stats

I have just been looking up the voting  percentage splits from previous elections over the last 30 years in the UK and it seeems that there is a recurring theme here:-

1979 the results of the three main parties were:

Conservatives, 43.9% of the vote, 339 seats

Labour, 36.9% of the vote, 269 seats

Liberals, 13.8% of the vote, 11 seats.

1983

Conservatives, 42.4% of the vote, 397 seats

Labour, 27.6% of the vote, 209 seats

SDP/Liberal Alliance, 25.4% of the vote, 23 seats

1987

Conservatives, 42.2% of the vote, 376 seats

Labour, 30.8% of the vote, 229 seats

Alliance (now LibDems) , 22.6% of the vote, 22 seats

1992

Conservatives, 41.9% of the vote, 336 seats

Labour, 34.4% of the vote, 271 seats

Liberal Democrats, 17.8% of the vote, 20 seats.

1997

Labour, 43.2% of the vote, 418 seats

Conservatives, 30.7% of the vote, 165 seats

Liberal Democrats, 16.8% of the vote, 46 seats

So, without any real argument, our First Past the Post (FPTP) system allows a majority (and therefore ‘strong and decisive) government with minority votes – no more than 43.9% of the voters ever voted for the government in the last 30 years!

So, imagine yourselves in a real life situation, where ten of you are in a meeting, maybe at work, at your school, in your local community. After some debate, you take a vote and under half of those in attendance, those who have taken part, those with arguments win the day. Would the other 6 really stand for that? Of course not. There would be further debate until agreement was made which allowed the majority to feel empowered and to feel that their opinions actually count. That is real life.

If there is any doubt, would we countenance any judicial system, and crucially trial by jury, that did not rely on a majority call? Of course we wouldn’t. AV is not that system, but it feels like FPTP is really not that fair, even if it may be a ‘simple’ system that is ‘easy to understand’.

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#oneaday 43: AV – An Alternative View

I came across this blog yesterday, written incidentally by a man I met many years ago when he worked in the video games industry. I actually thought this was pretty interesting given it was written not only by a Conservative, but a Conservative who actually works in public service as a Conservative, Mr Andrew Boff. I would encourage you to read the blog and also then cast your eyes down the comment section – the visceral ire is pretty unmistakeable, no surprise there though, given that internet trolls seem to be everywhere nowadays!

Anyway, if you have a moment, have a read of his blog http://conservativehome.blogs.com/platform/2011/04/andrew-boff-our-electoral-system-is-broke-fix-it.html 

It does feel sort of mad that we have a system which sends 440 of the 650 MPs to Parliament without the majority support of their electorates. I mean that just does not seem right, or am I missing something?

Add to this some very simple statistics about the 2005 General Election, where the Labour party won by a landslide using the First Past The Post (FPTP)  system :-

Labour won 356 of the seats in Parliament – a majority of seats ie 55.2% , but won with only 35.3% of the votes cast.

Conservative won 198 seats in Parliament ie 30.7% of the seats, but actually recorded 32.3% of the votes cast – only 3% less than Labour but 24.5% less seats!

The Liberal Democrats polled 22.1% of the votes (i.e 10.2% less than Conservative and 13.2% less than Labour) but only won 62 seats, i.e 9.2% of those available.

It looks to me that our voting system, unlike our country, is broken, or certainly does not work.  The Alternative Vote (AV) is not going to fix that system however. Indeed, some will argue that it will only help more coalitions come into play and therefore it will be impossible to vote a single party (often branded ‘strong’ and ‘principled ‘) government out. That could well be the case, but it does rather suggest that the people of the UK or either Labour or Conservative voters and everyone else will not get a look in. Surely the 20th century showed that a cycle of Conservative and Labour governments was not great for our nation. Swinging left to right seems like such a waste of energy after all. Can we simply not take a straight path, dealing with issues rather than party politics? The days of empire are over and the repression of the working classes feels less today than it was perhaps in the first half of the 20th century. May be now is the time to embrace change, in a particularly British way – not too radical, not too fast and certainly not revolutionary. #Yes2AV is a small change so does this make it right?

More research and more reading needed on this issue for me. Next up I want to see what the politicians say, so off to YouTube to see what I can find.

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#oneaday 41: AV: Facts on the Fly(er)?

What a fantastic weekend we had. 4 days off and the most wonderful weather here in the UK. So fantastic that I decided to attend a wonderful Point to Point race meeting in the Cotswolds with friends. Glorious sunshine, happy faces, a few decent horses, some very game riders and plenty of advertising hoardings, flyers and even a  tent advertising No2AV with a big green X.  Mind you, there was no sign of Yes2AV which got me thinking why was there a ‘No’ and no ‘Yes’?

Maybe those who know about laser focus targetting felt that their target demographic would be at the meeting. From the literature I read, I am told that the only party campaigning for this Yes2AV are the Liberal Democrats, so I guess the crowd were deemed to be Conservative, Labour or simply ‘don’t care’. 

One of the leaflets carried a picture of the prime minister with a signed message:-

‘The ‘Alternative Vote’  is an unfair system that allows candidates who finish third to win elections. I urge you to vote ‘No’ to AV on 5 May, otherwise Britain could be stuck with an expensive and discredited voting systems for generations to come.

I wonder how many of those who finish third would really end up winning, although it is possible with AV and not possible under First Past the Post (or Furthest Past the Post as it could be called?  Also I would like to find out more about the ‘expensive’ nature of of the AV system, and just to round things off understand why the system is ‘discredited’ and more accurately by whom? Mr Cameron did not reference any of these facts, so I am on the hunt to find out more.

On the reverse of the flyer we are given ‘3 good reasons to vote NO’

1) ‘AV is unfair – some people’s votes would be counted more that others’ . Good to hear that fairness is a priority. I would simply ask both systems and their supporters is it fair to get a winner if they don’t receive 50% or more of the vote?

2) ‘AV is discredited – [aha, here we are, some evidence! ]- only three countries in the world use it: Fiji, Australia and Papua New Guinea‘.  I wonder if the people of these 3 countries know that they are discredited? Many other countries use Proportional Representation (PR) rather than AV or indeed FPTP.

3) ‘AV doesn’t work Under AV, the person who comes second or third can end up winning’  True this can happen in extremis, but statistical research in countries that use AV (those discreduited ones) shows that it is rare for the person coming second or third in the first round not to win overall.

I would like some ‘Yes2AV’ material to question, but sadly I have not received any printed flyers, either through my door (twice) or at the racing. Mind you I did rather like the sum up strap line on one of the ‘No2AV’ leaflets which made me smile

‘AV is a politicians fix: Vote No2AV on May 5th’ I think we can safely assume this piece is at least incontrovertible!

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